By DON CUDDY
NEW BEDFORD — The Bioneers by the Bay conference brought a festive air to downtown New Bedford on Saturday as a diverse crowd explored all that the seventh annual gathering had to offer. Children played in the street, vendors set up booths with colorful crafts and a bright fall day provided casual visitors an invitation to explore the events taking place at several downtown locations.
“I was surprised by the beauty of the downtown the first time I came to Bioneers,” said Beka Hoffman from Hopkinton, a fan who was attending her third conference. “It’s wonderful to see the youth involved and all the diversity that New Bedford has.”
Presented by the Marion Institute and titled ‘Connecting for Change’ the conference focuses on seeking solutions to social and environmental problems. Sustainability, social justice, health and spirituality were some of the topics addressed on Saturday.
Keynote speakers on the Zeiterion stage provide the big draw for most of those registering for the three-day conference. Its spirit was captured by a remark from guest speaker Satish Kumar who told his audience: “The realists have made a real mess of the world. It’s time to give the idealists a chance.”
Jeremiah Wallack of Petersham, an environmental educator, has been at every Bioneers conference in New Bedford and those in San Francisco before that. “Bioneers is it,” he said. “It’s the solution side of the environmental movement.”
In addition to the formal program, a variety of activities were planned to appeal to a younger audience. These ranged from a workshop on making hula-hoops at Wing’s Court to an open playground area for children outside the Zeiterion.
Artisans and vendors set up booths on Purchase Street and reported brisk business, particularly the Great Cape Baking Company from Marston Mills which was frying cider donuts in canola oil. “Bioneers love cider donuts,” said Patience Thomas as she rolled another hot donut in sugar.
Inside an adjacent tent a workshop on crop production was taking place next to an exhibit on beekeeping, and nearby a film was shown using a projector powered by two bicycles.
Conference director Glenn Oliveira surveyed the lively scene and said he was pleased with the progress the conference has made each year.
“I think these outside activities offer a great entry point for local people who want to come down and check it out,” he said.
October 23, 2011 12:00 AM
By DON CUDDY